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We are a small computer shop, and got asked to build 20 computers, all the same (basically) for a company. I have fiddled around with Audit mode before, and know it can be used for creating an image that we know works, then "sealing" the installation for the customer. So we have installed the drivers, installed their software they want running, all on one computer. Nothing is activated yet. When I run SysPrep (rather, when it pops up on the next reboot), I know I need to select 'Enter System Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE)', but do I also need to Generalize? And do I need to reboot or can I just shutdown? Once that's done, can I then image the hard drive to the other 19?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's been a while since I've done this, but from memory the order is:

  • Set it up as you want (in Audit mode).
  • Generalize it and shut down (still in Audit mode).
  • Image/clone it onto new systems' drives.
  • Boot each machine, and then finalize each new machine into the OOBE mode.

You can probably get away with imaging it after OOBE if this image is only going to be used on an identical set of computers. You don't want to generalize an OOBE (I don't think you can anyway).

We generalize before duplication because it stops the activation clock and allows up to use the same image on different computers for more than a month (as well as setting it to perform hardware detection on the next boot).

  • We setup the base Windows image and generalize it (activation rearm #1 of 3).
  • When we get an order for multiple machines that are identical, we use that image on one machine and then set it up the way they all should be (drivers, software, etc.).
  • We then generalize it again (rearm #2), and then dupe it for the other machines.
  • We then boot each machine, check them over, and then seal it with OOBE (rearm #3).
  • It gets boxed and sent to the customer (after 72 hours of burn-in).

You don't want to boot again after OOBE, and you want to avoid sending a customer a new machine with a running activation clock.

PS: We use a duplication machine to dupe our drives; if you're doing a lot of machines, one of these will save you days of time over a year. :)

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Can't I install all their software first, then Generalize into OOBE? That's (I'm assuming) the switch to clone to other hard drives and other hardware. Do I need to boot each machine first before attempting OOBE? – Canadian Luke Oct 22 '11 at 18:38
I'll add some info to my answer... :) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Oct 22 '11 at 18:47
Alright, after seeing the edits... Since it's the same hardware on each of the computers, I can set it up with their software, then set it to Generalize in OOBE, then clone before the next boot? Or should I still re-arm it twice? – Canadian Luke Oct 22 '11 at 20:02
IMO you should generalize it, dupe it, then boot and OOBE each machine, as it ensures they are each working. You should really just try what you seem to want to do (generalize and OOBE in one step before duping), and see how it goes. :) The rearm count only matters when you hit 3, as you get to start all over from scratch. :) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Oct 22 '11 at 21:17
I did the OOBE and Generalize in one swoop, and got the first machine running with no issues. I am waiting on the second machine to finish imaging from the first, but it looks promising! Thanks for you help – Canadian Luke Oct 22 '11 at 21:55

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